Serena Williams grew emotional at the Australian Open while contemplating retirement.
After losing to Naomi Osaka in straight sets in the Australian Open semifinals, Williams stopped and saluted the crowd on her way out, touching her hand to her heart.
It was a small moment — possibly just a show of gratitude to a crowd that was behind her, or perhaps to just having fans in the stands at all.
But the move immediately sparked discussion about Williams’ possible retirement, with ESPN’s announcers debating if the gesture meant something more.
Williams was asked about the gesture in a press conference and grew emotional.
“I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Williams said.
A reporter then asked her a question about unforced errors. Williams got teary-eyed and left the press conference, saying, “I’m done.”
Immediately after the match, ESPN’s Chris Fowler said Williams’ wave to the crowd felt poignant.
“It had the feeling of more than just, ‘Thank you for coming out today,’ didn’t it?” Fowler said. “Who knows what’s in her head, but that was just a little bit unusual. It had a poignance to it, didn’t it?”
Chrissie Evert responded: “Yes, it did. It made a statement.”
Others in the tennis community got a similar vibe from the moment.
Others, however, criticized the premature speculation about Williams’ future.
Williams has made the finals of 2018 and 2019 Wimbledon and U.S. Open but has come up short in all four matches. Her last major was the 2017 Australian Open, but she has been in a drought since, playing well when healthy but unable to close majors out. She has also battled injuries in recent years.